A new report from Screen Digest, European Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT), concludes that some key European markets will find it very difficult to meet their targets, writes Fergal Ringrose.
Several markets across the region are now barely two years away from their target analogue terrestrial switch-off dates and many appear to have set ambitious targets that, on the face of it, can never be met.
Although Germany appears to face the biggest task of all European countries in meeting its 2008 target switch-off date, the country has already begun switching off its analogue signal. The capital Berlin was the first place in Europe in which analogue terrestrial television was switched off for good.
Germany is going be able to meet its ambitious target because barely 5% of German homes rely on analogue terrestrial only. Low-cost cable TV and free to air satellite dominate the German market. A similar, although less pronounced situation prevails in the Benelux and Nordic markets.
The task is much greater in the UK, France, Italy and Spain and these markets have generally set much later switch-off dates. At the end of 2005, Italy will have the largest number of analogue-reliant homes in Europe at nearly 14m. France is a close second at 12m, followed by Spain (9.3m), and the UK (7.5m).
It's not surprising then that these countries (with the exception of Italy) have fixed their switch-off dates between 2010 and 2012, two to four years later than most Benelux and Nordic markets.
It is Italy, France and Spain that seem to have major issues in meeting their targets. Italy's 14m analogue-reliant mountain means that it will have to convert 4.6m homes a year to DTT to meet its target switch-off date of 2008 - the most ambitious conversion rate in Europe. France has to convert 2.1m homes a year to DTT and Spain will have to convert 1.6m homes a year - very ambitious given that an organised DTT platform has still to launch.
The UK has just 803,000 homes a year to convert, a figure that seems far more achievable given the current success of Freeview. It should also be remembered that a single digital connection does not make a home wholly digital-capable and the question of video recorders and other analogue TV devices that will be junked and replaced should not be overlooked.